A MONMOUTHSHIRE motorcyclist has become the first ever woman to finish an extreme endurance ride in the Tunisian desert.

Vanessa Ruck - also known as The Girl on a Bike - recently battled sand dunes and blistering temperatures to complete the Tunisia Desert Challenge.

The 35-year-old went on to complete the gruelling eight-day endurance event, covering up to 469km each day.

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She endured sandstorms with up to 85km/hr winds - which meant that the race had to be paused, had bike issues leading to a night in the dunes, and another mechanical failure ending with a rescue helicopter being sent out.

Many riders were waiting for hours, some drivers even multiple days in direct sunshine with limited water.

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Despite being on a motorcycle, only able to take what you can carry, competitors are required to carry various safety items such as flares and emergency blankets.

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For many these proved to be lifelines.

The third stage, through the El Borma dunes, was described by a 10-time Dakar finisher as "the hardest day riding of my life".

As one of the many competitors to be recovered, Ms Ruck faced an electrical fault ending her day miles from anywhere.

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She was the furthest bike of 16 to be recovered, just six kilometres from the end.

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She made a campfire and waited for help to arrive. After an exciting rescue in the dark of the night, she made it back to the bivouac at 3.30am, grabbing just 2.5 hours sleep while her Desert Rose Racing mechanic team frantically got her rally bike ‘Sandy’ back to life.

During the fourth stage, the bad luck continued as the bike the malfunctioned at 10.30am so she was stranded again.

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Miles from anywhere, deep in the dunes the temperatures peaked at 45 degrees. At these temperatures, the body starts to shut down and even with water, severe dehydration and heat exhaustion is just a matter of time.

Ms Ruck survived the desert heat by taking water from other vehicles entered into a different class and by mid-afternoon used her bike as some protection from the sun.

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She said: "By 5pm I was bad.

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"I called for an emergency evacuation and when they saw me, they were clearly scared. I was terrified.

"It felt like my head was going to explode. I was delirious and was put on a drip.

"One competitor sadly died due to the heat as they didn’t activate emergency support from the organisers."

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Ms Ruck carried on with the next stage and went on to become the first ever female to enter and finish this tough endurance event.

She describes herself as just a normal girl who faced one of life’s big curveballs.

After being hit by a car while cycling in 2014, resulting in seven surgeries and a roller-coaster of mental and physical recovery spanning seven years, taking on Tunisia was no mean feat.

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